Making Schools Safe
School is an institution which a large part of the population is constantly interacting with. Tamar Mosiashvili, who has 10 years’ experience as a teacher, was the coordinator of the nongovernmental organization Civic Development Institute for the project Citizen Monitoring of Safe Schools – which the Europe Foundation supported in 2010. The project aimed at engaging the wider public in the monitoring and evaluation of the government’s safe schools program.
To monitor the program, Tamar and her colleagues used the resource of citizen journalism – which was totally new to Georgia at that time. Through the project, citizen journalists provided the public with reliable information (45 reports and articles) about the situation regarding the safety of schools in Tbilisi, Poti, Kutaisi, Batumi and Rustavi and the work of resource officers. They revealed instances of abuse of authority and incompetence on the part of resource officers, though there were positive assessments as well.
Within the scope of the project, Tamar and her colleagues maintained constant contact with beneficiaries and other stakeholders through social networks and othermeans and received numerous messages from the public regarding the safe schools program. It turned out that many people were either unaware of the program or skeptical of it.
The first difficulties emerged when the organization, in an effort to obtain a comprehensive picture, invited decision-makers from the Ministry of Education and Science and resource officers to a dialogue. But when – despite 11 official letters – they refused to cooperate with the project and local education resource centers restricted organization representatives’ access to schools, it was decided to promote the issue by directly informing the broader public.
Several presentations and discussions were organized which involved experts, civil society organizations and various stakeholders. Information obtained by citizen journalists was disseminated via six media outlets which provided extensive coverage. A competition was held for the best journalistic material regarding the safe school program. The best journalistic material among those submitted by the 10 contestants was titled “Safe School Laden with a Sense of Danger”. It was a deep analysis of the pros and cons of the safe schools program and it produced quite a resonance. Some 2,000 stickers and fliers about acute problems facing the safe schools program were distributed among the target groups. At the end of the project, a book titled “Safe School without Public Participation” was published based on the data obtained through project and expert assessments. The findings and recommendations outlined in the book were provided to civil and public sectors as well as 14 donor organizations.
Six years after the completion of the project, the organization witnessed the result of its efforts – the information and experience accumulated during the monitoring process proved to be in high demand.
Tamar Mosiashili: “Sustainability of projects is something which I often think about. However, the project funded by the Europe Foundation in 2011 proved more sustainable than one could have predicted back then. We started to work on safe schools with your support. Then, taking into account the achieved results, EWMI/USAID and the EU Delegation provided their support in expanding the project. A section from the publication produced under the project funded by the Europe Foundation is included in the textbook published within the framework of the ERASMUS+ project Development of International Model for Curricular Reform in Multicultural Education and Cultural Diversity Training. This textbook is used by students at Georgian universities (Ilia State University, Tbilisi State University, Akhaltsikhe University, Telavi University). As regards sustainability, I think it is important to introduce materials developed by the nongovernmental sector at universities. The title of the textbook is Child’s Rights in Education and for Education. I would like to express my gratitude to Europe Foundation for its great support in that difficult period, which finally yielded results after so many years. … This is an important aspect of project sustainability. Future teachers will learn about the importance of care-oriented school safety from this textbook.”
The project Citizen Monitoring of Safe Schools was implemented under the Europe Foundation’s Engage and Monitor for Change program, which fosters active citizen participation in the monitoring of reforms and services implemented by the government through participatory civil monitoring and advocacy.